We’ve all seen them: the insidious co-worker who seems to be working toward a common goal with you, yet thwarts your efforts at every turn. The Office Nemesis lurks around every corner as you attempt to be the productive, shining star at your company. How can you find a way to co-exist–and thrive–around this person?

I recommend that you keep your eye on the prize! Achieving COMPANY goals is of paramount importance to both your employer AND your career. This may mean, however, that you are stuck working alongside someone whom you might never choose to see outside of the office… and who frequently sabotages your work, talks about you behind your back, and worst of all, makes it IMPOSSIBLE to get your job done!

How then, to sail past the issues with someone who doesn’t seem to be on the same page? What works for many professionals are the three “C’s”–Collaborate, Collude, and Co-exist.

Collaborating with your co-worker means first assessing what they have to offer and then letting them know that you VALUE their contributions. Many of these peers are simply looking for attention!

The first step I recommend when dealing with the Office Nemesis is this: invite them to lunch or coffee. In this sit-down, be prepared to hear both positives and negatives about your workplace. Remember that this is normal for someone who may be feeling underappreciated.
Here’s the key: turn the conversation to this person’s strengths and encourage them to tell you what they WANT to do at work. Then ask them if they can take on this role for your current project.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that you should override (or attempt to BE) the boss there. However, you may find that tapping your co-worker’s strengths can lift their mood about work and help them operate on YOUR side.

The next option is to Collude. During your time together, you will undoubtedly find that your colleague has some preferences about how projects could be run or some other ideas that could raise workplace productivity. If at all possible, carefully consider what he has to say so that you can promote the value of these ideas!

A caveat: ensure that these are POSITIVE changes you’d like to throw your weight behind. Bad-mouthing your company will squash your career faster than you can say “negative reputation.”

A third strategy for dealing with the Office Nemesis is to simply Co-Exist. Sometimes, you are going to find that your co-worker is just too burned-out, worn-down, or otherwise overly negative to really offer a productive contribution to your company.

However, if you followed the steps to Collaborate, you will be in a great position to give your colleague the acknowledgement they crave. When the Office Nemesis feels appreciated, he or she frequently stops trying to derail other’s projects.

Be careful to continue displaying YOUR positive and upbeat attitude at work! You don’t want to give the impression of Collusion where it will reflect negatively on your accomplishments.

Remember that there ARE ways to deal head-on with the issues presented by the Office Nemesis!

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